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Software Vulnerability could Let Hackers Take Over US Power Grid

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a video describing the destructive results of 'cyber attack' test on the control system of a power plant. It is a sophisticated method, which could possibly become an attack mechanism for terrorists to bring down the power grid serving the United States, experts say.

Some experts worry that intensified, and coordinated computer attacks could result in severe damages to the power infrastructure whose repair could take several months.

The CNN TV channel showed on 27 September 2007 how the execution of a malware program executed on the computer commandeering the power infrastructure reduced a turbine to a horrific, smoke-filled, metal spewing lump.

The Idaho National Laboratory had demonstrated the attack in March for DHS. The attack was done on a well-known software flaw in a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system. The simulated attack was an attempt to show the severe impact a well-planned digital strike could have on the nation by knocking off the country's critical infrastructure.

Though details of the attack launch are not available, the picture it projects and the effects are understandable, said CEO of Network Security Vendor NetWitness Corp, Amit Yoran. PC World reported this on 28 September 2007. Yoran remarked that the picture seemed truer than what academic papers on the topic delineate.

People have discussed how the devastating attack was possible, and now, they have a material simulation, said Yoran who had worked as Director for the National Cyber Security Division of the DHS.

No evidence of damage done by any terrorists or hackers by utilizing this technique existed, according to the US officials. But the officials warned that there was no routine monitoring of the affected systems like that of the modern corporate machines, so there could be little or no forensic evidence following such a security breach.

The video does not provide a realistic view of the working of the electricity system, said Manager, North American Electric Reliability, Stan Johnson. The organization based in Princeton, N.J. supervises the power plant. technewsworld.com reported this on 27 September 2007.

Enterprises are trying hard to prevent such attacks, said Robert Jamison, a top official at DHS, as reported by technewsworld.com on 27 October 2007.

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